Monday, September 24, 2012

Gray Lady's Quote Approval Memo a Positive Step

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The devoted, journalism-as-watchdog lovin' staff of  "TUOL" hales the recent Public Editor's Journal column by New York Times ombudsperson Margaret Sullivan that cites a Times internal memorandum that almost drives a stake in the alarming, spreading practice of journalists granting sources pre-publication quote approval.

As reported by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers ("WANNP") Web site (, the internal Times memo acknowledges: "[D]emands for after-the-fact 'quote approval' by sources and their press aides have gone too far...[so] reporters should say no if a source demands, as a condition of an interview, that quotes be submitted afterward to the source or a press aide to review, approve or edit."

Credit must be given to the recently hired Sullivan, who called for a Times policy on the subject in an earlier column, and to Times media critic David Carr, who condemned the practice of quote approval as "puppetry" in a column that "TUOL" gleefully retweeted.

Quote approval has gained a foothold with admissions by media outlets such as The Huffington Post and Vanity Fair (Michael Lewis's profile of President Barack Obama), Bloomberg News, The Washington Post and Reuters that they had ceded the right to sources on occasion.  Some publications, including The National Journal and The Harvard Crimson, do not permit sources to review quotations.

Unfortunately, the Times' memo, according to  the WANNP post, concludes with a "never say never" escape hatch, admonishing reporters that potential exceptions to the no quote approval rule should be addressed to department heads or masthead editors.

Apparently, every watchdog has an inner lapdog fighting to get out for a good scratch behind the ears.
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